Outstanding quality and luxury, genuine everyday usability, long-distance touring comfort for four occupants... these, too, are ways in which a good super-saloon must distinguish itself these days. Class-leading performance and handling will only be enough for the BMW M5 if they come packaged with all of the above.

And the good news is that the M5’s cabin is more impressive than ever. This five-seat express offers legroom and headroom that’s generous by the standards of its peers. As for the equipment list, it is pretty far-reaching. The M5 gets 19in alloys, blue brake calipers, cruise control, quad-exhaust system, glass sunroof, and adaptive xenon headlights, along with the numerous M Division alterations to the suspension, gearbox, bodykit and V8 engine. 

Making split folding rear seats a cost option seems a little tight-fisted

Inside there is a 10in screen iDrive infotainment system with DAB, sat nav, a 20GB hard drive, BMW Connect Services and a USB interface, while there is also a Merino leather interior, sports seats and head-up display chucked in too.

The driving position is excellent, supported by wide sports seats with more adjustment than most will ever need. The cabin’s material quality and richness unerringly convince you that you’re aboard something luxurious, expensive and well built.

All that’s lacking are a few outstanding points of differentiation. Aside from some slightly transformed instruments, embossed leathers and sill plates, there’s little that adds piquancy to the regular 5-series’ business-like ambience.

If a test drive in the M5 comes with a more interesting soundtrack than you were expecting, that may be because part of that mechanical soundscape comes from its audio speakers, not its engine compartment or its exhaust.

The BMW M5’s Active Sound Design system reproduces the sound of the car’s V8 through the car’s audio speakers, at various background volumes and frequencies decided on the basis of engine revs, throttle load and road speed data taken ‘live’, directly from the ECU.

During our tests, it proved impossible to distinguish between real and reproduced engine sound. But if the thought of anything other than a rorty exhaust leaves you cold, there’s one on the options list…


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